MMS Blog

Most metal additive manufacturing (AM) methods involve sintering powder with an energy source like a laser or an electron beam, or a welding-like process that melts powder or wire to build up parts. While these methods are suitable for all sorts of applications from medical implants to structural aerospace parts, the need to melt and resolidify the metal creates stresses. That stress can cause metal parts to deform, break free from their support structures or even warp the build platform. 

In a solid-state AM process, the material doesn’t melt. Instead, metal is built up using other mechanisms like friction, pressure and velocity. Common types of solid-state AM include friction stir welding, cold spray and sheet lamination. There’s even a method powered by compressed shop air. These processes involve little to no heat, which means little to no residual stress created in the part.

Whirlwind Propellers in El Cajon, California, wanted to grow and expand its product offerings, but farming out the machining of its propeller hub assembly components was hindering the shop’s progress. Not only was the shop unable to fully control its processes and production lead times, but outsourcing reduced cost effectiveness, which in turn stifled new product design.

According to company President Jim Rust, the shop’s product line had become stagnant. It was neither developing new designs nor making design improvements to existing products. This changed when the shop incorporated multitasking machine technology from Mazak into its part production. 

Communication Clears Machine Monitoring's Morale Hurdles

After trying to track shopfloor efficiency with pen and paper, AccuRounds chose to implement a machine monitoring system with the help of MachineMetrics. This data-driven practice quickly demonstrated the benefits of real-time monitoring. It also brought some tensions to the surface among shopfloor employees. AccuRounds’ story can serve as a case study for how to implement such technology effectively. 

AccuRounds, based in Avon, Massachusetts, is a second-generation, family-owned, advanced manufacturer that provides machined components to industries including medical and aerospace. Mike Tamasi, AccuRounds’ president and CEO, credits his people with the shop’s success.

At Micron Manufacturing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, lean principles, continuous improvement and design for manufacturability are the three pillars of what the job shop feels are key to its “enduring reliability.” “Enduring reliability” is simply the trademarked verbiage the shop uses to summarize its goals and business practices, what Mike Preston calls a two-word mission statement. Mr. Preston, company president and founder’s son, explains that these two words signify that customers can rely on Micron to deliver parts and service with absolute confidence.

Of course, he acknowledges that every shop has similar goals and intentions. “We think our approach is not only effective, but also distinctive because we’ve worked hard to systematize it,” he says. The shop uses another trademark, “Systemicron,” as the name for this systematic approach to reliable, consistent and high-quality production.

Although Bob Read still shows up for work, the 77-year-old is retired in one sense: He no longer concerns himself with the business side of his manufacturing business. This is possible because of a technology he invented: a porous fixturing material that can apply vacuum gripping force evenly throughout the entire contact area with a 3D surface.

For a little more than six years, this material provided a competitive edge for Technical Tooling, the composite mold and pattern-making shop Mr. Read founded in 2003. However, Mr. Read was happy to let others take on the task of commercializing the material. “He just wanted to use it to help customers, but we knew this needed to be brought to market,” says Zachary Horn, who purchased the business along with Jake Matthaei in 2017.